small car buying tips
Ford Fiesta is Ireland’s best selling small car. Flying ability optional!

If you’re trying to evaluate a number of different small cars, I’ve put together a list of five things to think about before you buy.

1. Ride comfort

You don’t have to settle anymore for an uncomfortable small car. Some are better than others however. On a test drive check to see what the car is like over speed bumps and rough, uneven surfaces in town, and if you will do a lot of driving out of town, take it out and see what it feels like as you cruise along at speed. Is it comfortable, settled or do you feel like you’re being bounced around a lot?

2. Equipment

What are your must haves and nice to haves? Make sure to examine the specification to find out what you’re getting. If you do a lot of long journeys, cruise control could make driving less tiring. If you’re all about the look of the car, check it has alloys! Does it have electric mirrors? Some will have these as standard, some won’t, and they’re really useful for parallel parking if there are kerbs involved. Do you want the latest technology and easy integration between the car and your smartphone? Bluetooth is not standard on every car but is really useful for handsfree calls while driving.

3. Engines

Many small cars have what appears at first glance a bewildering choice of engines. There could be two or three petrols, some turbo charged and some not, and there might be a diesel thrown in there too. Your small 1.0-litre petrol might look cheap and be fine around town, but could be out of its depth very quickly once out of town. Test drive it to see if it’s enough fun for you! Petrol is the obvious choice for a small car but if you’re doing a long commute daily then there are plenty of good, small diesels on the market too.

4. Practicality

Cars have grown over the years and use space more efficiently, but what’s out there still varies in terms of space. The areas to watch out for are rear seating space if you carry passengers regularly, and boot space. Most small cars are competitive among their rivals in terms of what’s on offer, but some will really excel, while others may feel more cramped.

5. Running costs

Generally these are low for small cars but do check and compare the figures between models. Sportier models with larger alloy wheels can affect CO2 emissions and push similar cars into different tax bands, so check that you know the data for the actual car you are buying to avoid any nasty surprises.

Need inspiration? Read my small car review round-up here.

Caroline Kidd